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Mark Manson: Choose your struggle

Posted 3 months ago in Xero news by Erin Smith
Posted by Erin Smith

Today, we’re going to talk about pain.

Mark Manson is the best-selling author of self-help antidote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. A veteran of blogging and an online business entrepreneur, Mark sustained his career through self-publishing… and plenty of disappointment, which he shared through three key opening statements:

    1. You are not special – Do ordinary things extremely well
    2. Motivation is overrated – Focus on the few things that matter
    3. Don’t pursue happiness – Pursue pain

“The inspiration behind my book is about how we are missing the usefulness of pain – the suffering and the struggle – and how important that is,” he said. 

“It’s your struggles that give your life a sense of meaning. If you don’t feel pain you don’t have an accurate metric of how valuable something is to you.”

Today’s culture, Mark contends, revolves around feeling good or chasing feeling good, but that can distract us from finding deeper meaning. The pursuit of pain, in that respect, is a far more effective way of identifying your values.

Getting used to pain has practical benefits, too. In any business, you’re going to run into setbacks, failures, disappointments or obnoxious clients. And you’re going to have to be able to deal with that pain effectively.

“A lot of research shows that people who are most resilient and handle pain the best actually go further in achieving their goal.”

And so it becomes about choosing what kind of pain you want in your life.  

Choose the better problem

“The heuristic I often talk about in my book is that whenever you’re facing a decision, you can choose the better problem. Choose your problems rather than letting them choose you. In my opinion that’s a fundamental component in being autonomous and taking care of yourself.”

Whether it’s marathon running, inviting your mother in law over for Christmas, or learning the guitar, he says, the pain you choose eventually becomes your edge. We assume we should suffer less, but we actually need to reframe that. We need to suffer better.

Because to get good at anything you must love the associated pain, not the associated success.

“Which is why finding purpose in your life, is like finding that Goldilocks-like state to underpin the pain you choose. Defining the deeper values that go beyond the bottom line.” 

Less is more

Developing the skill to find the few things that matter the most is important and rare, Mark says. But there are three good places to start:

      1. Focus on fewer things and doing them really well
      2. Focus on fewer people and really caring about them, and
      3. Focus on less information of higher relevance

This skill of condensing things – finding where you want to focus your pain and your struggle, based on your guiding principles – is so important. And, in this modern world of high-velocity information, potentially the best self-help advice out there.

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